The call for action against some in the ANC confirms inconsistency and factionalism

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Clyde Ramalaine

Is there anyone of the top six and NEC against whom allegations were not levelled?

We are literally eight days before South Africans participate in their sixth national vote to elect a party and leadership to govern in a democracy. The African National Congress attests an organisation bedevilled by confusion. Its Integrity Commission recently flagged 22 names including top six members on its lists for national parliamentary duty.

It is an organisation ravaged by personal agendas, factional fights and allegations against its leadership. However, it’s handling of these allegations proves inconsistent. Add to this it has former president Thabo Mbeki in his umpteenth political, return spitting accusations against adopted resolutions from land to Radical Economic Transformation not sparing the National Development Plan.

The ANC appears as always vulnerable, played by the useful instrument of a media that over time has come to exert itself at an internal level as capable of determining ANC outcomes. We all know that the media hitherto have been running an ongoing campaign against some in the ANC while it has turned a blind eye to engage the allegations against others.

If the ANC was in any other country it would not be guaranteed a victory given the slew of allegations its leadership stands accused off. It simply would not stand in victory for what it has to contend with confirming deep divisions, internal fights, political ambitions and incriminating publicised allegations. However, that the ANC will win the elections albeit by a lesser margin says more of the pathetic state of the SA opposition parties than its strength. It deserves no victory since no party ten days before a national ballot confronted with this de-campaigning of its own and disunity should be trusted. It appears the ANC does not really need any opposition party from outside since it increasingly proves it is its own opposition – willing to destroy itself at any altar.

What then is at the centre of the ongoing threats which includes among others its integrity commission findings on the ANC lists and the commentary of current and past leadership as we saw with Mbeki among others?

At the centre of the current challenges is the claim of allegations against some. Allegations surfaced from the State Capture Commission chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Zondo to books penned by journalists and claims made by others in published news articles. An allegation is defined as an accusation made by a person or a group of people in a legal setting, which then needs to be proven through an investigation.

Allegations in a normal setting are exactly that, allegations. Allegations by its very nature are subject to proof.  Yet, allegations are also powerful tools in campaigning and de-campaigning. They are even more, powerful when they are extended a truthfulness. In the SA politically loaded context, it shifts the burden of proof to the one accused instead of the one who levels the accusation.

Was there ever a time, from the days of Nelson Mandela when allegations were not levelled against ANC leadership? To ask this question is not to justify any wrong – but its to highlight that even those who in this season shout clean-up do so with more than the proverbial bleating of sheep in the background. Will we afford South Africa this ambiguity of what allegations mean? Are we not to allow ourselves space and time to ask why allegations against some, automatically translate become a matter of truth that demands the NEC to respond? While the Zondo and PIC-Commissions are still in session, for some state capture is already proven and they demand action against those accused.

These want arrests and criminal charges to stand when we only will have Zondo’s report in mid-2020. Do not forget how Ramaphosa and Manuel respectively demanded action. Hitherto prosecutorial attempts in among others the Estina dairy farm corruption claims have failed dismally. There appears an over-eagerness to be seen to be doing something.

In SA a powerful means to eternalise allegations are the publishing of books. It is also not a new method. We will recall that former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein on the Arms Deal corruption penned at least two books namely “After the Party” and “Shadow World” besides a later documentary. Central to his claims were accusations he levelled against Mbeki and others for having been involved in the ANC leadership’s blocking of a parliamentary investigation into alleged bribery by BAE Systems and other weapons firms in SA’s arms deal.

He accused Mbeki’s presidency of killing off its investigation, pressured the AG to change a report criticising the R21bn deal to buy planes from BAE as flawed, and stymied an inquiry by the National Director of Public Prosecutions into whether the ANC accepted bribes to fund its election campaigns. These were very strong allegations. We know that the Zuma presidency established the Seriti Commission which Feinstein and others refused to be a part of.

I raise this here for two reasons, one to underscore that the subject of allegations against political leadership as hardly new. The second perhaps more prominent reason is to show that despite the allegations levelled in the Feinstein books against Thabo Mbeki and others, it hitherto have remained allegations. No court of law as yet entertained the veracity of the claims or exonerated those against whom the accusations were levelled. Meaning the allegations despite publications were never proven anywhere. Neither can the accused claim they were exonerated because no court of law ever ruled on such case.

Towards the end of 2017, Jacques Pauw published “The Presidents Keepers”, again an ANC president stood accused of grave corruption. The book contains very strong allegations that endeavoured to render Zuma guilty as charged for serious crimes.

We will recall during the 2017 campaign to ANC high office, various accusations were levelled against all candidates. Allegations were made against the two mains contenders, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa. The allegations did not spare those who were part of their respective slates however defined.

The latest book to see the light in this vein of publishing allegations is Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture, written by Pieter-Louis Myburgh. The allegations levelled against Magashule as with all previous ANC leaders constitute grave claims of corruption with the usual Gupta twist.

Following the publishing of Myburgh’s book, some in the ANC immediately called for the head of its Secretary-General, Ace Magashule. You can’t help but think, those who publish these books know the soft belly of the ANC, they know how these allegations feed into an already capital-divided ANC, and therefore, at an external level really claims the power to determine ANC action against its own. Those who became vocal include a segment of veterans who have consistently been factional and perhaps more interested at a personal level to be relevant.

The Sunday Times’s Qaanitah Hunter a colourful journalist who also had her own dose of allegations levelled against her for her past Gupta associations interviewed the former president of the ANC and SA, Thabo Mbeki. According to her front-page article, Mbeki shared the following on the Magashule allegations matter. “The NEC must surely discuss this. It must have a look at that and say what do we do about this? Is their substance to this and do whatever they must do, they can’t pretend that negative reporting of its Secretary-General does not exist?”

According to the Sunday Times, Magashule responded in saying “… There are allegations against all ANC officials; from the president to the treasurer general, ranging from Bosasa, the Public Investment Corporation, etcetera. I can’t verify if what you claim president Mbeki said is true, but I find it hard to believe, as president Mbeki understands that we subscribe to the universal law until proven guilty.”

Of interest is what Mbeki said with this statement, “the NEC can’t pretend that negative reporting of its secretary general does not exist.” According to the article, Mbeki raises the subject of ”negative reporting” as a central aspect of NEC action. It is right here we are compelled to ask when did negative reporting in time past become the reason for the NEC to act? A more pertinent question to Mbeki, is why the choice of the convenience of negative reporting as uniquely a matter accorded to Magashule when Mbeki like all of us know this is not the first-time negative reporting on the top six leaders in the ANC leadership featured?

On another level, if Hunter was specific on the Magashule matter, why did Mbeki as a veteran not see Hunter’s plausible twisted aims and insisted on broadening the negative reporting to include top six and NEC members?   Why does Mbeki steer clear from not engaging the negative reporting on the ANC president Ramaphosa for the Bosasa donations that evidence many tales? Why does Mbeki not equally engage the allegations levelled against ANC Chairperson Mantashe from the Bosasa allegations of corruption? Why is he as veteran not mindful to raise the negative reporting on the deputy president DD Mabuza, Treasurer General Paul Mashatile or the Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte? We also know negative reporting occurred against Mbeki and those who made up his NEC back then. It is, therefore, rather convenient to narrow negative reporting or better understood as allegations to the current Secretary-General in the deliberate aim of uniqueness because it suits a specific political past or current agenda.

Must we remind Mbeki that a casual search of Corruption Watch evidence a list of names of those that made up the Arms Deal saga which to this day confirms he was one of those mentioned in allegations? Let us hear the direct quote from the Corruption Watch website on Mbeki: “President Nelson Mandela’s deputy, and South African president from June 1999 to September 2008. Much of the wheeling and dealing took place on his watch. He is also said to have interfered in a decree by Mosioua Lekota that gave the auditor-general carte blanche into investigating the arms deal – Mbeki is said to have revoked that decree – and ensured that the results of the joint the investigation was sanitised, exonerating the government of any wrongdoing.

The ANC days before the sixth national elections finds itself in a very challenging time at organisational unity level. Notwithstanding its contribution to SA in freedom, it is wrought in factional fights driven by self and capital interest not from 2009 as it conveniently is told in choice narratives of ‘wasted years’.  But since the time of the negotiated deal that makes South Africa the democracy, it claims to be.

Unfortunately, in 2019 literally, days before election day, the storyline of a very popular president and a not so popular organisation demands scripted ”messiahs” of organisational cleaning-up, otherwise understood in heroes and villains. This one-sided ”clean-up campaign” affords some in snapshot analysis and convenience to demand allegations against some stand while allegations against those the media made angels are automatically dismissed.

The ANC’s Integrity Commission appears not exempted from the influence of this agenda. If the Integrity Commission is in any sense taking itself seriously it warrants engaging all who stand accused of allegations.  The ANC’s Integrity Commission cannot be directed by what the media leads.  Anything less is tantamount to political expediency at play which may portray the Integrity Commission as part of the ongoing factional fights. It must resist the temptation to be seen as a useful means to deal with political enemies.

Can the ANC please attempt consistency on the subject of allegations levelled against its leadership and members and quit dancing to the music of a known agenda of those who are responsible for the negative reporting. Can the ANC also call to order the behaviour that shows disrespect and disregard from its veterans like Mbeki who is questioning adopted resolutions and waging a ghost war with his successor (Zuma) when he had ample time to engage in the appropriate forums the organisation affords?  The ANC runs the risk of being seen as supporting the false notion of ‘liberation aristocracy’ that affords individuals like Mbeki to act as he does in his new awakening.

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
Political Commentator & Writer Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation